Lori Kilchermann: Poisoning is only a crime if you’re prosecuted

Lori Kilchermann

While explaining to my co-workers how I had poisoned my unsuspecting husband, Jim, I was quick to point out that it was purely an accident. They were quicker to point out that most people behind bars for the same crime had probably used that very same defense.

But Jim didn’t die, and I’m sure he was too blinded by puppy love at the time to even consider prosecuting me. In fact, he didn’t even tell me I had poisoned him until 15 years after that near-fatal night.

We had met in the Army, both in our early 20s and both working as military police officers. As he was readying to go on patrol on the graveyard shift, I was busy preparing an economical hash dinner – potatoes with slices of the previous night’s roast beef mixed in.

As I flipped the potatoes over in my hand-me-down pan in our rented trailer on the edge of the base, he was busily putting the finishing touches on his boots and uniform. He glanced in the pan and casually remarked that he preferred his potatoes much browner. I looked at the clock – worried about making him late for work – and cranked up the knob on the old gas stove. The potatoes quickly began to take on a deep, golden brown shade.

He glanced in the pan again and said he liked them even darker, so I thought I’d just leave them cook a little longer with that burner going full blast. It didn’t take long to realize my mistake – wisps of smoke began curling up from the pan. I ran to the stove and flipped over the seared layer of potatoes to reveal a splotchy, charcoal-colored coating. I panicked and started frantically scraping the bottom of the pan with the spatula – hopeful I could salvage enough potatoes to feed my hard-working husband before he had to leave.

It didn’t work. Nearly all the potatoes were scorched and scraping the pan only spread the foulness throughout the dish. I stood speechless, nearing tears. Then Jim grabbed the spatula and scooped some of the charcoal-laced mess onto a plate. “You can’t eat that,” I told him

“This is exactly how I like it,” he replied.

“You’re kidding,” I said, and begged him not to eat it.

“No, really, I like it this dark,” he said.

Jim ate a heaping plateful, then asked for seconds. I couldn’t believe it – was this disaster really edible?

I tentatively tried a piece of potato, but couldn’t get past the scorched, sour taste and had to spit it out. But there sat Jim, quickly finishing off a second heaping plateful, then he was out the door and on his way to work.

He arrived on time, but the night went downhill from there. Shortly into his shift, Jim developed debilitating cramps, chills, sweats and diarrhea. His patrol partner insisted he go to the emergency room at Moncrief Army Community Hospital.

The doctor said his symptoms were typical of someone who had been poisoned, and asked what he had recently eaten. Jim explained the circumstances surrounding his “last meal.” The doctor informed him he had Teflon poisoning, gave him a shot and a bottle of pills and cautioned him against eating any burnt food – ever. Jim slept the rest of his work shift in the Army barracks, returned home in the morning at his usual time, and never said a word about that evening’s hospital visit.

That was until, 15 years later, I decided to try my hand at making hash again – which quickly met with objections from Jim. It was only then that he shared the poisoning story. We laughed, and we made a pact to always be a hash-free household.

Freeport Journal-Standard assistant managing editor Lori Kilchermann can be reached at